There is something primal about the music of Explosions in the Sky. It comes from a place outside language and does not compromise itself to words. As instrumental music that eschews much of the computers most bands lean on nowadays, it has a certain incomparable purity. It is characteristically instrumental music indeed and does just fine without a singer, thank you. A frontman and lyrics would probably only ruin it. The band knows how to support a melody with triumphant lead guitar work that also knows how to settle into a rhythmic role in order to serve the power of the music best.
Beyond that, the majesty of the Explosions in the Sky’s often lengthy and meandering music comes from somewhere outside the band’s instruments. The musicians who compose the band (guitarists Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani, bassist Michael James and drummer Christopher Hrasky) do not showboat, jacking out self-indulgent solos. The quartet from Austin, Texas do have an obsession with dynamics, however. They earn every bombastic moment with meandering, hushed passages.
Like the best instrumental indie bands that preceded them, such as Mogwai, Tortoise and Godspeed You Black Emperor, Explosions creates music via creative textures and atmospheres that transcend the technology they use. The sounds and instruments are easy to recognize: guitars and drums. But the band use them so creatively, they evoke images of nature: from the slow swell of clouds to the ebb and flow of waves on a shore to the rattle of the wind through tree limbs. Such moments in nature seem represented by the band’s quieter bits, but there are grand moments as well, epic storms of guitars tangling and drums pounding.
I had heard several Explosions albums prior to its latest one: 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon). However, I never felt compelled to buy any of them to make a permanent part of my collection. I fell in love with this album on first listen via a stream on-line. I immediately ordered the CD. I thought the LP packaging and the double disc aspect of the vinyl too cumbersome and pricey to enjoy the music, which flows nicely on one side of a CD. But after I heard the music closely on headphones through the mp3s generated from the CD, on my iPod, I knew this was a work dense with character that could be even more thoroughly enjoyed on the vinyl format (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon).
Probably even better than that will be seeing the band perform live. More than a year after the album’s release, I am happy to report the band has scheduled a show in Miami, and there are still tickets available. The cavernous venue should make for an excellent setting for the music of Explosions in the Sky. If you want to try for a chance at winning a pair of free tickets for the Miami show, visit the Beached Miami blog.
Finally, here is an excellent taste of the soft-powerful-soothing dynamics in the new album by Explosions. This is the official music video for “Be Comfortable, Creature”:
The band’s remaining US tour continues with Zammuto supporting through these dates:
06/18: Soul Kitchen, Mobile, AL
06/19: The Ritz Ybor, Tampa, FL
06/20: Grand Central, Miami, FL
06/21: The Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA
06/22: Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville, VA
06/24: Randall’s Island. New York, NY
Governors Ball Music Festival (with Beck, Modest Mouse, Fiona Apple, Devendra Banhart, Cage the Elephant, Built to Spill, Cults, Phantogram, Freelance Whales, Alberta Cross, The Jezabels, Turf War)
06/25: 123 Pleasant Street Morgantown, WV
06/26: The Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL
06/27: Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN